With the horrors that took place between the states of Palestine and Israel fortunately coming to a pause as both countries agreed to a ceasefire with both sides claiming victory, here is a brief feature for those of us to better understand and catch up on the Gaza conflict that has taken place in the past several weeks.
The Israeli-Palestine crisis, a cluster of smaller conflicts like the Gaza conflict, is a complex issue with roots stemming back to the early 1950’s when Israel first gained its independence as a free Jewish state.
The Zionism Movement in Israel
After the end of World War II, The British, who controlled Palestine until 1947, handed over the rule to Israel and the Zionist Movement to which the Arabs were not too pleased about.
Throughout Israel’s long history, tensions between Jews and Arab Muslims have existed as both groups consider the city of Jerusalem sacred and holy for it contains the Temple Mount, which includes the holy sites al-Aqsa Mosque, the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and several other religious places of significance.
During the second world war, fearing for their lives during Nazi reign, many Jews immigrated to Palestine, where the Zionist Movement had already built settlements in since the late 19th and 20th century and were focused on creating an independent Jewish state.
However, Arabs in Palestine did not approve of this advance by the Movement as it would have then cut off several commonly shared sacred sites from Arab Muslims, which led to the establishment of the Arab Nationalist Movement.
Numerous conflicts have risen since then, with a key source for the most recent tensions this time being centred around rising Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, Israel. The now predominantly Jewish state considers all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, however, this is not recognised by much of the international community.
Specifically, this notion was rejected by Palestinians who lay claim to East Jerusalem and the holy land being the future capital in a possible Palestinian state.
The Beginnings of Conflict
The issue seems to have reached its climax in a decades-long attempt by Jewish groups who used the courts to evict Palestinian residents from Sheikh Jarrah according to an article in The Guardian. Sheikh Jarrah, which is located in an affluent corner of East Jerusalem, is more commonly understood to be a residential centre for Jerusalem’s Muslim elite.
The article states that Israeli law allows Jews to reclaim such lands but has no similar provision for the many Palestinians dispossessed in the same conflict, even if they still reside in areas controlled by Israel.
On Monday 10 May, the Israeli Supreme Court was scheduled to give a ruling regarding this issue but was postponed due to protests from supporters of the Sheikh Jarrah residents, and on the same day, the tensions heightened with the Israeli Nationalist Movement celebrating their anniversary of the capture of Jerusalem in 1967 with their ‘highly provocative flag march.’
These incidents, which saw the police getting involved, then led to perceived threats upon the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which then became a hugely sensitive issue triggering outbreaks of deadly violence between Palestinians and the Jews.
After a weekend of violence from local mobs and military, Israeli security forces conduct a flash raid on the Al-Aqsa compound which is commonly considered as one of the holy sites, firing rubber bullets, tear gas and sound bombs on gathered worshippers, wounding more than 300 Palestinians.
Later, Hamas (a Palestinian militant Islamist group with control and power in Gaza), who see themselves as protectors of the holy lands, announced that it had given an ultimatum for Israel to remove its forces from the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
A Brief Description About ‘Hamas’
Hamas, which was first established as the Islamic Resistance Movement, originated in 1987 after the beginning of the first Palestinian intifada (uprising) against Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, and under its charter, the resistance is committed to the destruction of Israel.
According to the BBC, Hamas originally had a dual purpose. While it was also supposed to carry out the armed struggle against Israel through its military wing, it was also sanctioned to deliver social welfare programmes to Muslims and Arabs residing in Gaza.
However, since the militant group won the legislative elections in 2006 and reinforced their power in Gaza by ousting the rival Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas has fought three wars with Israel in attempts to claim the holy land.
Hamas as a whole or in some cases can be identified as a military wing and have been deemed a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, European Union, and the United Kingdom due to certain advancements and attacks on innocent civilians.
Since the initial demand for Israeli forces to exit the area, more than 200 rockets have been fired by Hamas towards Israel according to the Israeli military, including several targeted at Jerusalem but were intercepted by Israels ‘Iron Dome’ defense system.
In the meantime, Israeli have fired back with aerial strikes on Gaza apartment buildings and housing complexes, which in some ways have been more deadly than Hamas’ efforts to attack Israel due to the aforementioned defense system.
However, the death toll was unimaginably high, with an estimate of more than 300 persons losing their lives due to these conflicts, a number of those victims being children. A recent Israeli newspaper carried the faces of more than 50 children who lost their lives during unsettled times with several others being recorded as missing, hidden under the rubble and destruction.
The ceasefire has shifted focus from a border war to a humanitarian crisis, with political officials from both sides accessing the damage that has been brought upon by Israel and Hamas militants.
It has been reported that families who weathered the fighting by seeking shelter in schools which were run by the United Nations have commenced the cleaning and resettlement process but the devastation and destruction that was brought about by this 11-day conflict will undoubtedly take more than 11-days to clear up and rebuild.